LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – A lot has changed for Louisville since it throttled Miami last December at the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Soon after the Cardinals’ 36-9 victory over the Hurricanes, star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater departed for the NFL Draft and then-coach Charlie Strong soon followed him out the door for the Texas coaching job.
Louisville quickly hired the offense-minded Bobby Petrino from Western Kentucky, returning him to the program he led to a 41-9 record and an Orange Bowl victory in his first stint from 2003-06. One of those wins came against Miami, which the Cardinals face Monday night in their Atlantic Coast Conference debut.
Odd as it is for two schools to face off after closing the previous season against each other, Petrino reminds players that life has changed for both programs.
“We’ve tried to make our players understand, they’re two completely different teams,” Petrino said last week. “We have a different offense, a different defense; they have a different quarterback and some of the same guys back on defense.
“But it’s two totally different teams, and it’s going to be a battle. We have to go out there and perform well, play with great intensity and try to find a way to win the game in the fourth quarter.”
Despite two straight wins over Miami, including a 31-7 victory in the final year of Petrino’s first stint, Louisville is 0-9-1 otherwise against the Hurricanes. The Cardinals also face a Miami team favored again to win the ACC’s Coastal Division after finishing 9-4 last season.
The Hurricanes might also be motivated to avenge last year’s bowl shellacking by the Cardinals by spoiling their ACC debut on home turf. Miami coach Al Golden downplayed the revenge factor and credited Louisville for being the better team that day.
His mission is making sure the ‘Canes are better this time around.
Said Golden, “we have to take care of our business, not worry about anybody else’s.”
Here are some things to look for on Monday night:
NEW QBS: Brad Kaaya beat out Kansas transfer Jake Heaps for the starting job and will be the first true freshman to start for Miami since Jacory Harris faced Charleston Southern on Aug. 28, 2008. Redshirt sophomore Will Gardner makes his starting debut after playing six games in 2013 as Bridgewater’s backup. Petrino also said that freshman Reggie Bonnafon could be used in some situations against Miami.
REPLACING PARKER: With senior receiver DeVante Parker out 6-8 weeks with a broken toe, Louisville’s deep receiver corps must fill his role as the go-to guy. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they have plenty of candidates in Kai De La Cruz, Eli Rogers, tight end Gerald Christian and others. Petrino believes they’ll band together, saying, “I think they see it as a challenge to step up and improve their game.”
DUKE’S RETURN: Miami running back Duke Johnson is back from a broken ankle that ended his 2013 season at eight games and stopped him 80 yards short of 1,000. He averaged 6.3 yards per attempt and no doubt will have to carry the load for the Hurricanes to provide offensive balance and comfort for Kaaya.
NEW CARDINALS DEFENSE: Besides switching to a 3-4 base alignment, Louisville will also introduce seven new defensive starters. Some returnees have changed positions: senior safety Terell Floyd (four interceptions last season) has moved from cornerback while senior linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (9.5 sacks) slides back from defensive end.
BACK IN BLACK: Louisville hasn’t worn all-black uniforms since 2008, so players are giddy about donning those outfits for the “Black-Out” promotion created by Petrino in 2006. The Cardinals aim to improve to 3-1 in that ensemble that includes black chrome helmets.